Lent 2012: Dust and Hope

Lent started for me in the small town of Bolgatanga, northern Ghana. At the Parish Church of St. Cyprian, next door to the office of our partner, the Anglican Diocesan Development and Relief Organization (ADDRO), we received the imposition of ashes by the Rev. Canon Dennis Tong.  Yet again I heard the familiar words, “You are dust.”

Spending the first days of Lent 2012 in Ghana was a powerful experience.  The following are images I will carry in my mind throughout the season. 

There are few more inspiring schools in the world than the Zebilla-Teshie Anglican Carpentry School in northern Ghana. In this photo are (from left) the Rt. Rev. Jacob Kofi Ayeebo, Bishop of Tamale and Executive Director of ADDRO; Headmaster John A. Awinsor; and Canon Sam McDonald. John is a tireless teacher, administrator and surrogate parent to young men with disabilities that in other places would consign them to a life of marginalization.  Because of ADDRO’s ministry and skills training, they live lives of hope and blessing.  When I see this photo, I give thanks and pray for continued abundance for the school and all those it touches.

Every time I go to Africa I see lots of malaria nets, and hear many stories of how they save lives and bring hope to villages at the end of the road. In Ghana, malaria kills 22% of children under five each year. The NetsforLife® program partnership is working with more than 200 communities to prevent these needless deaths with mosquito nets and training. Families like this one are learning how to properly use the nets and are staying healthier.

For the third time in two years I stood in the dungeons of Elmina and Cape Coast Castles, contemplating my ancestors’ actions and the devastation of slavery inflicted on a large part of our human family.  This time, I was especially struck by the sight of the deep blue Atlantic as I stood at the Door of No Return. Instead of slave ships, we saw laborers hard at work, building boats that will ply surrounding waters to bring abundant fish to their families’ tables. It was a scene that is helping transform the legacy of the Coast into one of hope.

I like group photos.  They tell many stories.  This one shows 15 Episcopal Church leaders from seven U.S. dioceses along with ADDRO staff, including Bishop Jacob.  Right in the middle is our multi-talented tour coordinator, Gifty Tetteh (in purple), my colleague in the Episcopal Relief & Development Ghana office. Next to her is Constance Perry (in yellow), one of our trip leaders and Vice Chair of the Episcopal Relief & Development Board of Directors.  Each person has a story to tell.

My Lent will conclude, and Easter will start, in about three weeks at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle. The Rt. Rev. Greg Rickel, Bishop of Olympia, will shout out, “He is risen!” and the congregation will reply, “He is risen indeed!”  If I get organized, I plan to print out these photos and carry them to the altar as I receive the Pascal feast with a grateful, overflowing heart. 


Brian Sellers-Petersen is Director of Church Engagement at Episcopal Relief & Development.